India-Australia clashes have always been special. Sure, there are the Ashes and the India-Pakistan rivalry as well — but scintillating, sometimes almost shocking events have occurred more or less in every Down Under trip India took. For example, in India’s 1947 tour of Australia, Vinoo Mankad famously ran out Bill Brown by holding the ball and taking off the bails with Brown well out of the crease. Now known famously as ‘Mankading’, it was a thoroughly controversial topic, generating wide criticism. However it had its fair share of supporters as well, including then current Australian skipper Sir Don Bradman.
So let us take two walks down the memory lane and visit some of India’s most memorable moments in the lands of the kangaroo. This article will cover pre-2000 events, while the notable events after 2000 will be found in the second part.
1. The first of the few (1977-78 Tour, Melbourne):
Banking on a gritty Gavaskar ton in the second innings and Chandrasekhar at his spinning best, India won their first ever Test against the Aussies in their own backyard in Melbourne. Chandrasekhar recorded his career best match-figures of 12 wickets for just 104 runs, on a fast and bouncy Melbourne pitch. However, it did have something for the spinners, and the Aussies crumbled to just 164 runs in the fourth innings, given a target of 387. Australia had won the first two matches in the 5 match series; but India now turned around and made it 2-1.
India would go on to win the next match at Sydney before in a tight contest at Adelaide, Australia got the better of India in a 3-2 series victory. Sunil Gavaskar hit 3 centuries in the Test series.
2. Kapil seals the deal and the Gavaskar-Lillee Spat (1980-81 Tour, Melbourne):
India were trailing 0-1 in the Test series with the last match to go in Melbourne. With just 143 runs required for Australia to win the series 2-0, Kapil Dev produced a destructive bowling performance that, to the disbelief of the home crowd, saw the Aussies get bowled out for just 83 runs. India came back brilliantly from the ashes to draw level the series.
However the Test is more famous for the spat between Gavaskar and Lillee. Struggling to score runs throughout the Test series, Gavaskar had started off well in the second innings. At 70, Lillee swung the ball in sharply, and the umpire’s finger went up upon the appeal. Gavaskar refused to accept this decision, adamant that he had edged the ball. In Lillee’s own words: “The only one who had a problem with it was Sunny who, until that day, had never scored runs against me.”
When Gavaskar started to depart to the pavilion reluctantly, Lillee offered some advice, triggering a heated spat. Such was the magnitude that Indian captain Sunny asked Chetan Sharma to walk off with him as a sign of protest, until Sharma was persuaded by the assistant manager to go and bat again. Gavaskar was himself infuriated with the umpiring of Whitehead, remarking: “I was infuriated by the injustice of it all”.
3. Boy becomes the Master (1991-92 Tour, Perth):
The story for the Indian team was no different this time also: vicious fury and pace of the McDermott-Hughes pair kept India uncomfortable. Of the few exceptions, one announced his arrival with immense grandeur on the big stage. Already having scored a masterful 148 runs alongside Shastri’s double century at Sydney (his nemesis Shane Warne made his debut in that match), Sachin Tendulkar played the innings of his life at Perth. Coming in to bat at number 4, he was the penultimate man out, scoring 114 runs in between. As the entire team crumbled around him, the 19 year old wonder stood unfazed, displaying to the world how to play top class fast bowling on the fastest pitch of all. India did lose the Test, but many critics hailed this as Sachin’s finest knock ever.
4. Lone man standing (1999-2000 Tour, Melbourne):
Very rarely do you see a batsman of the losing team (losing 3-0 in a 3 match series) being adjudged Man of the Series. Throughout the tour, India kept failing miserably in batting, albeit the skipper Sachin Tendulkar, who scripted a beautiful struggle to score 116 out of India’s 238 runs (nobody else even crossed 40). Even in the second innings, he was the only one to get a fifty as India got bundled out for just 195 runs. Being the skipper in failing times, it spoke volumes of his greatness and the weakness India had playing the bouncy ball.
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